Roger Moore scores: loyal to the Finn

Last updated : 12 January 2006 By Chris C

My wife’s got one of those cards from a major supermarket chain. In fact, she’s got several. They claim they’ll reward her loyalty if she shops with them. You know the sort of thing – spend £100 with us and we’ll give you £1 back.

Has it made her any more loyal? Well, actually, totally the reverse. In the days before these so called ‘loyalty cards’ she used to buy our groceries wherever was most convenient. Now, analysis of who’s offering the best deal determines where the Moore millions are deposited. Loyal? For a price, sure.

And isn’t that the point, that real loyalty is only found in dogs?


Antti Niemi was arguably the best Southampton goalkeeper since Peter Shilton. Only Tim Flowers would run him close and both are many lengths clear of erratic stoppers like Beasant and Grobbelaar. I’d like to tell you about Antti’s best saves. I’d like to tell you about the myriad games he won for us just as sure as slotting home the winning goal.

But the truth is, improbable became mundane with Mr Reliable. So good were the saves and so frequent, that the impossible seemed common-place. The gasps became polite applause so convinced were we that every save was just another from the Niemi repertoire. Perhaps the greatest mark of his time is that I can only remember one really poor game – and that’s the one none of us likes to recall at Fratton Park last season.

And yet, while Niemi goes with my thanks after serving us so well, in other quarters questions are raised about his ‘apparent loyalty’. Well, loyalty to whom?


Down here we were spoilt for years by the apparent loyalty of Matthew Le Tissier. With a top basic wage of just £4,000 per week, Matt claims his highest ever annual income reached just £400,000 including bonuses and appearance fees. Dream money for you and me maybe, but offers to double or even quadruple his, meagre by modern standards, footballer’s salary came and went with little more than passing interest. Why?

In his own words, MLT will claim a mix of modest ambitions, modest living standards, and home comforts – his expectation seem remarkably ordinary for the most gifted footballer of my lifetime. Southampton was and is close to his Guernsey home and there’s nothing more loyal than convenience. He could have moved on. He didn’t.

But let’s not kid ourselves it was purely through some misguided bond with fans who deliberately forget the occasional moan about his work-rate! No doubt we have a place in his heart, but not the only place.

No-one knows what motivates a footballer to go. No-one knows why they stay. Be honest. How often have you changed job for money, when actually all you really wanted was a change of scene, or management?

Only an individual knows what possesses them to change anything in their lives. And in the case of footballers, it may not even be a decision of their making. How many cover for a club’s desire to sell in return for several pieces of silver?

Shoddy Supporters?

Which brings us back to Antti Niemi. I don’t know exactly why Antti chose now to leave Southampton for Fulham. It’s not that I expected him to stay longer. If anything, I’m amazed he didn’t go at least six months ago. But I do know one thing for certain.

I know that Anti Niemi never let a ball into our goal by choice. And I know that the peroxide Finn has done more for this football club than some of those who can’t bring themselves to accept his departure and wish him well for the future. I’ve never been ashamed to be associated with Anti Niemi, which is more than can be said for any moron who chose to abuse him personally over his transfer.

Footballers come and footballers go. Why not cling onto memories rather than bitterness?

Loyalty might be a fallacy. Decency isn’t.